In the world of constant disruptive changes and rapidly amplifying market needs, innovation is the differentiator. It is the capability to do things differently, caters to ever-increasing customer expectations, and transform ideas into reality.
Which is why innovation is the ‘strategic vision du jour’ of many ambitious organizations today.
But, innovation is not just about one revolutionary idea that disrupts an industry, it is a combination of the little things infused in ways an organization works.
The norms, values, unconscious messages, the behavior of leaders in an organization – all are the invisible forces that play vital roles in breeding and fostering the culture of breakthrough innovation at the workplace. However, innovation is not an easy job! One of the major challenges faced by any organization is defining how to effectively encourage and cultivate an innovation intent across the business. How to deal with the mindsets obstructing innovation to thrive?
Here I have summed-up a four-step plan that can help you overcome these challenges and create a culture of innovation and growth in your organization:
- BreakThrough Mental Model Boundaries
The most aspiring business leaders do not sit satisfied with ‘doing more of the same’. They are committed to going beyond it by adapting to the changes of disruptive technological environment. They know that the question is not just about how to improve, but how to transform a complete business model, which begins with breaking the boundaries of our mental models.
So, what are mental models?
Mental models are the frameworks that encompass our way of interpreting the world, including our assumptions from socialization, beliefs, education, and experience. These models determine how we intake information, and how we respond to it.
When talking about innovation and seeding it in the culture, organizations need to comprehend the reasons behind individual and organizational mental boundaries. Here’s how you can achieve it:
- Provide training by capitalizing intellectual and technological resources
- Create an environment that could help employees share knowledge
- Keep assumptions aside and talk with team members about the strengths and weaknesses of a plan or an idea
- Ensure that leadership aligns with the company’s strategy, mission, and structure
- Eliminate inefficient management processes
- Challenge the Status Quo
Traditional leaders seldom bring change!
Many leaders have an unyielding belief in their company hierarchy – the certain ways they have been doing things. These are called the status quo of an organization. An organization develops a status quo owing to many reasons, from leaders feeling pressured for time to the culture that has “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it” thought process.
However, any organization that has ever wanted to bring change with meaningful impact has had to challenge its status quo:
- Thrive a culture of change
The journey of challenging the status quo starts from you. Welcome new ideas, try new perspectives, constantly suggest ideas, and engage in the implementation of these ideas.
- Ask more questions
When a team member or an employee questions the present status quo, take this as an opportunity to redefine and figure out what is wrong and where. Ask questions:
- What is not working and why?
- What is the idea to fix it?
- How can we bring improvement to it?
- Empower your team
Giving greater charge and responsibilities to the team members will not only improve teamwork and collaboration but also provide more opportunities for bringing innovation in the team culture.
- Uncover the Underserved Customer Needs
Identifying underserved customer needs and addressing them with the right services and solutions can be an effective strategy for innovation. Companies like Airbnb and Uber are doing it successfully because they tapped customers’ uncovered needs and provided high-quality solutions to them.
The best opportunities can be found in the unmet needs of your customers and here’s how you can unleash those:
- Map the customer journey
The more you understand customers’ journey, the better you spot most important touch points that make them initiate and complete a buying process. So, create a customer journey map, which will help you visualize the process a customer or buyer goes through when making a purchase or availing your services. This will let you find and eliminate the pain-points of a customer by improving or bringing changes to your products.
- Leverage data
The heap of data lying in your records can be one of the most important assets in your journey of innovation. Review old surveys, chat logs and purchase histories of your customers. This can be the easiest way to pinpoint what your customers exactly want.
- Voice of the Customer (VoC)
Voice of the Customer surveys and programs gather data about the expectations and behavior of existing or potential customers. These surveys give real-time feedback and insights that can be used while developing a product to cater to the needs of the customers.
- ‘De-risk’ Your Business to Enhance Value
A question that is often asked by businesses is – As innovation carries risk, how can an organization innovate in a corporate culture that is highly risk-averse? The question is important and valid.
What needs to be understood is at the core of every innovative practice is a risk-management philosophy to lower down risks in the process of growth and implementation of those practices. Whether the practice is about minimizing waste by leveraging Lean Thinking or applying Design Led-thinking to address consumer pain points, the focus is always on lowering the risk embedded in being innovative.
Also, we should not forget that if the riskiness of an innovative transition of the organization relies on the choices business professionals make, it also suggests that the more informed and better their choices are, the lower the risk will be. Here are a few ways to achieve this:
- Understand sources of market risks – identify customers’ critical jobs-to-be-done that were never uncovered neither by your customers nor your competitors
- Divide customers based on the job-defined market
- Target your services, solutions or product development on emotional, social and functional aspects of customers’ requirements
- Perform Voice of the Customer surveys before commencing product development to avoid waste of costs and time
To keep a steady pace of growth in an era of extreme digitization and ruthless competition, “thinking out of the box” won’t suffice the purpose. It will need more – from rethinking business objectives to finding people capable of helping you bring impactful changes, and consistently seeding breakthrough innovation in the culture of organizations.
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